Admiral Jellicoe's Official Report on the Battle of Jutland

[The New York Times/Current History, August 1916]

ice Admiral Sir John Jellicoe's official report of the North Sea naval battle, which the British call the battle of Jutland and the Germans the battle of the Skagerrak, was made public on July 6. It is universally regarded in Great Britain as establishing the battle as a British victory. The German and English estimates of each other's losses- arc still widely at variance. The most conservative British estimate places the total German loss at 109,220 tons, as compared with a British loss of 112,250 tons. The German Admiralty continues to admit losses amounting only to 63,000 tonnage, as against an asserted British loss of about 125,000 tons. These discrepancies can be adjusted only after the publication of full German official reports. Readers desiring a good tactical summary of Admiral Jellicoe's narrative will find it in the brief commentary of Admiral Bridge immediately following Jellicoe's statement.

Admiral Jellicoe's report to the British Admiralty is the fullest official account thus far available of the famous battle off the coast of Jutland, though even here the full list of ships and commanders is "withheld from publication for the present, in accordance with the usual practice." Following is the full text of all the vital portions of the document:

Be pleased to inform the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that the German High Sea Fleet was brought to action on the 31st of May, 1916 to the westward of Jutland Bank, off the coast of Denmark.

The ships of the Grand Fleet, in pursuance of the general policy of periodical sweeps through the North Sea, had left their base on the previous day in accordance with instructions issued by me. In the early afternoon of Wednesday, May 31, the first and second battle cruiser squadrons, the first, second, and third light cruiser squadrons, and destroyers from the first, ninth, tenth, and thirteenth flotillas, supported by the fifth battle squadron, were, in accordance with my directions, scouting to the southward of the battle fleet, which was accompanied by the third battle cruiser squadron, the first and second cruiser squadrons, the fourth light cruiser squadron, and the fourth, eleventh, and twelfth flotillas.

The junction of the battle fleet with the scouting force after the enemy had been sighted was delayed owing to the southerly course steered by our advanced force during the first hour after commencing their action with the enemy battle cruisers. This, of course, was unavoidable, as had our battle ruisers not followed the enemy to the southward the main fleets would never have been in contact.

BEATTY IN THE LEAD

The battle cruiser fleet, gallantly led by Vice Admiral Beatty, and admirably supported by the ships of the fifth battle squadron under Rear Admiral Evan-Thomas, fought the action under, at times, disadvantageous conditions, especially in regard to light, in a manner that was in keeping with the best traditions of the service.

Admiral Jellicoe estimates the German losses at two battleships of the dreadnought type, one of the Deutschland type, which was seen to sink; the battle cruiser Lützow, admitted by the Germans; one battle cruiser of the dreadnought type, one battle cruiser seen to be so severely damaged that its return was extremely doubtful; five light cruisers, seen to sink one of them possibly a battleship; six destroyers seen to sink, three destroyers so damaged that it was doubtful if they would be able to reach port, and a submarine sunk. (In the foregoing Admiral Jellicoe enumerates twenty-one German vessels as probably lost. The last British report placed the total at eighteen.) In concluding Admiral Jellicoe says :

The conditions of low visibility under which* the day action took place and the approach of darkness enhanced the difficulty of giving- an accurate report of the damage inflicted or the names of the ships sunk by our forces. But after a most careful examination of the evidence of all the officers who testified to seeing enemy vessels actually sink and personal interviews with a large number of these officers, I am of the opinion that the list shown in the inclosure gives the minimum numbers, though it is possible it is not accurate as regards the particular class of vessel, especially those which were sunk during the night attack.

In addition to the vessels sunk, it is unquestionable that many other ships were very seriously damaged by gunfire and torpedo attack.

LOSSES STATED

I deeply regret to report the loss of his Majesty's ships Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invinncible, Defense, Black Prince, Warrior, ADMIRAL JELLICOE'S REPORT OF BATTLE OF JUTLAND 933 Tipperary, Ardent, Fortune, Shark, Sparrow Hawk, Nestor, Nomad, and Turbulent. Still more do I regret the resultant heavy loss of life. The death of such gallant and distinguished officers as Arbuthnot, Hood, Captain Sowerby, Captain Prowse, Captain Cay, Captain Bonham, Captain Charles J. Wintour, and Captain Stanley B. Ellis, and those who perished with them, is a serious loss to the navy and to the country. They led officers and men who were equally gallant, and whose death is mourned by their comrades in the Grand Fleet. They fell doing their duty nobly a death which they would have been first to desire.

The enemy fought with the gallantry that was expected of him. We particularly admired the conduct of those on board a disabled German light cruiser which passed down the British line shortly after the deployment under a heavy fire, which was returned by the only gun left in action. The conduct of thei officers and men was entirely beyond praise.

On all sides it is reported that the glorious traditions of the past were most worthily upheld ; whether in the heavy ships, cruisers, light cruisers, or destroyers, the same admirable -spirit prevailed. The officers and men were cool and determined, with a cheeriness that would have carried them through anything. The heroism of the wounded was the admiration of all. I cannot adequately express the pride with which the spirit of the fleet filled me.

It must never be forgotten that the prelude to action is the work of the engine room department. During an action the officers and men of that department perform their most important duties without the incentive which a knowledge of the course of action gives to those on deck. The qualities of discipline and endurance are taxed to the utmost under these conditions. They were, as always, most fully maintained throughout the operations. Several ships attained speeds that had never before been reached, thus showing very clearly their high state of steaming efficiency. Failures in material were conspicuous by their absence.

Of the medical officers Admiral Jellicoe says:
Lacking in many cases all essentials for performing critical operations, with their staffs seriously depleted by casualties, they worked untiringly with the greatest success. The hardest fighting fell to the battle cruiser fleet, says Admiral Jelliicoe, the units of which were less heavily armored than their opponents, and he expresses high appreciation of the handling of all the vessels and commends Admirals Burney, Jerram, Sturdee, Evan-Thomas, Duff, and Leveson, and continues:

Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty once again showed his fine qualities of gallant leadership, firm determination, and correct strategic fighting. He appreciated situations at once on sighting the first enemy's lighter forces, then his battle cruisers, finally his battleships. I can fully sympathize with his feelings when the evening mist and fading light robbed the fleet of that complete victory for which he had manoeuvred, for which the vessels in company with him had striven so hard. The services rendered by him, not only on this but on 'two previous occasions, have been of the very greatest value.

FROM BEATTY'S REPORT

Vice Admiral Beatty's report to Admiral Jell'icoe particularly mentions the work of the Engadine, Commander Robinson, which towed the Warrior seventyfive miles during the night of May 31, and continues:

It is impossible to give a definite statement of the losses inflicted on the enemy. Visibility was fqr the most part low and fluctuating. Caution forbade me to close the range too much with my inferior force. A review of all the reports leads me to conclude that the enemy's losses were considerably greater than those we sustained in spite of their superiority, and included battleships, battle cruisers, light cruisers, and destroyers. This is eloquent testimony to the very high standard of gunnery and torpedo efficiency of his Majesty's ships. The control and drill remained undisturbed throughout, in many cases, despite the heavy damage to material and personnel.

Our superiority over the enemy in this respect was very marked, their efficiency becoming rapidly reduced under punishment, while ours was maintained throughout. As was to be expected, the behavior of the ships' companies under the terrible conditions of a modern sea battle was magnificent without exception. The strain on their morale was a severe test of discipline and training. The officers and men were imbued with one thought a desire to defeat the enemy.

RARE BRAVERY OF A BOY

The fortitude of the wounded was admirable. A boy of the first class, John Travers Cornwall* of the Chester, was mortally wounded early in the action. He, never-the- *Cornwall joined the navy in August, 1915, and went into the training school. He had been at sea only a few weeks when he was killed. The Captain of the Chester in a letter to the boy's mother says:

"He remained steady at his most exposed post at the gun waiting for orders. His gun would not boar on the enemy. All but two of the crew were killed or wounded, and he was the only one who was in such an exposed position, but he felt he might be needed, and indeed he might have been, so he stayed there standing and waiting under a heavy fire, with just his own brave heart and God's help to support him. I cannot express to you my admiration of the son you have lost from this world. I hope to place in the boy's mess a plate with his name on and the date and the words, ' Faithful Unto Death.'"

934 CURRENT HISTORY: A Monthly Magazine of The New York Times less, remained standing alone at a most exposed post quietly awaiting orders until the end of the action, with the gun's crew dead or wounded all around him. His age was under 16% years. I regret that he has since died. I recommend his case for special recognition, in justice to his memory and as an acknowledgment of the high example set by him.

In such a conflict as raged for five hours it was inevitable that' we should suffer severe losses. It was necessary to maintain touch with greatly superior forces in fluctuating visibility, often very low. We lost the Invincible, the Indefatigable, and Queen Mary, from which ships there were few survivors. The casualties in the other ships were heavy. I wish to express my deepest regret at the loss of so many gallant comrades, officers and men. They died gloriously.

SIGHTING THE ENEMY

Extracts from Vice Admiral Beatty's report give the course of events before the battle fleet came on the scene of action. At 2:20 o'clock in the afternoon the Galatea reported the presence of enemy vessels. At 2:35 o'clock considerable smoke was sighted to the eastward. This made it clear that the enemy was to the northward and eastward, and that it would be impossible for him to round Horn Reef without being brought to action. The course of the British ships consequently was altered to the eastward, and subsequently northeastward.

The enemy was sighted at 3:31 o'clock. His force consisted of five battle cruisers. Vice Admiral Beatty's first and third light cruiser squadrons, without awaiting orders, spread eastward, forming a screen in advance of the battle cruiser squadron under Admiral Evan-Thomas, consisting of four battleships of the Queen Elizabeth class. The light cruisers engaged the enemy and the cruiser squadron came up at high speed, taking station ahead of the battle cruisers. At 3:30 o'clock Vice Admiral Beatty increased the speed to 25 knots and formed the line of battle, the second battle cruiser squadron forming astern of the first, with two destroyer flotillas ahead.

Vice Admiral Beatty then turned east southeast slightly, converging on the enemy now at a range of 23,000 yards. The fifth battle cruiser squadron was then bearing north-northwest 10,000 yards distant. The visibility was good. Continuing his report, Vice Admiral Beatty said:

The sun was behind us. The wind was southeast. Being between the enemy and his base, our situation was both tactically and strategically good.

BOTH FLEETS OPEN FIRE

Both forces opened fire simultaneously at 3:48 at a range of 18,500 yards. The course was altered southward, the enemy steering parallel distant 18,000 to 14,500 yards. The fifth battle squadron opened fire at a range of 20,000 yards at 4 :08. The enemy fire then seemed to slacken. Although the presence of destroyers caused inconvenience on account of smoke, they preserved the battleships from submarine attack.

Two submarines being sighted, and a flotilla of ten destroyers being ordered to attack the enemy with torpedoes, they moved out at 4:15 o'clock simultaneously with the approach of German destroyers. The attack was carried out gallantly with great determination. Before arriving at a favorable position to fire torpedoes they intercepted an enemy force consisting of one light cruiser and fifteen destroyers. A fierce engagement at close quarters ensued, and the enemy was forced to retire on their battleships, having two destroyers sunk and their torpedo attack frustrated. Our destroyers sustained no loss, but the attack on the enemy cruisers was rendered less effective.

The Nestor, Nomad, and Mineator, under Commander Edward Bingham, pressed the attack on the battle cruisers and fired two torpedoes. Being subjected to a heavy fire at 3,000 yards, the Nomad was badly hit and remained between the lines. The Nestor also was badly hit, but was afloat when last seen. The Petard, Nerissa, Turbulent, and Termagant also are praised.

These destroyer attacks were indicative of the spirit pervading the navy and worthy of its highest traditions.

From 4:15 to 4:43 o'clock the conflict between the battle cruiser squadrons was fierce and the resolute British fire began to tell. The rapidity and accuracy of the Germans' fire depreciated considerably. The third German ship was seen to be afire. The German battle fleet was reported ahead and the destroyers were recalled.

Vice Admiral Beatty altered his course to the northward to lead the Germans toward the British battle fleet. The second light cruiser squadron closed to 13,- 000 yards of the German battle fleet and came under heavy but ineffective fire. The fifth battle squadron engaged the German battle cruisers with all guns, and about 5 o'clock came under the fire ADMIRAL JELLICOE'S REPORT OF BATTLE OF JUTLAND 935 of the leading ships of the German battle fleet.

The weather became unfavorable, Vice-Admiral Beatty's ships being silhouetted against a clear horizon to the Germans, whose ships were mostly obscured by mist.

Between 5 and 6 o'clock the action continued at 14,000 yards on a northerly course, the German ships receiving very severe punishment, one battle cruiser quitting the line considerably damaged. At 5:35 o'clock the Germans were gradually hauling eastward and receiving severe punishment at the head of the line, probably acting on information from their light cruisers which were engaged with the third battle cruiser squadron or from Zeppelins which possibly were present.

At 5:56 o'clock the leading ships of the British battle fleet were sighted bearing north, distant five miles. Vice Admiral Beatty thereon proceeded east at the greatest speed, bringing the range to 12,000 yards. Only three German battle cruisers were then visible, followed by battleships of the Konig type.

THE BATTLE FLEET

Vice Admiral Jellicoe then takes up the story of the battle fleet. Informed that the Germans were sighted, the fleet proceeded at full speed on a southeast by south course during two hours before arriving on the scene of the battle. The steaming qualities of the older ships were severely tested. When the battle fleet was meeting the battle cruisers and the fifth battle squadron, great care was necessary to insure that the British ships were not mistaken for the German warships. Vice Admiral Beatty reported the position of the German battle fleet at 6:15 o'clock. Vice Admiral Jellicoe then formed the line of battle, Vice Admiral Beatty meantime having formed the battle cruisers ahead of the battle fleet, and the fleets became engaged. During the deployment the Defense and Warrior were seen passing between the British and German fleets under heavy fire. The Defense disappeared and the Warrior passed to the rear, disabled.

Vice Admiral Jellicoe considers it probable that Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, the Rear Admiral who was lost on board the Defense, was not aware, during the engagement with the German light cruisers, of the approach of their heavy ships owing to the mist, until he found himself in close proximity to the main German fleet. Before he could withdraw his ships were caught under a heavy fire and disabled. When the Black Prince of the same squadron was sunk is fiot known, but a wireless signal was received from her between 8 and 9 o'clock. Owing principally to the mist, it was possible to see only a few ships at a time. Toward the close of the battle only four or five were visible and never more than eight to twelve.

ADMIRAL HOOD'S SQUADRON

The third battle cruiser squadron, under Rear Admiral Horace Alexander Hood, was in advance of the batle fleet and ordered to reinforce Vice Admiral Beatty. While en route the Chester, Captain Lawson, engaged three or four German light cruisers for twenty minutes. Despite many casualties, her steaming qualities were unimpaired. Describing the work of the third squadron, Vice Admiral Beatty said Rear Admiral Hood brought it into action ahead of the Lion" in the most inspiring manner, worthy of his great naval ancestors." Vice Admiral Hood, at 6:25 P. M., was only 8,000 yards from the leading German ship, and the British vessels poured a hot fire into her and caused her to turn away. Vice Admiral Beatty, continuing, reports:

By G:50 o'clock the battle cruisers were clear of our leading battle squadron and I ordered the third battle cruiser squadron to prolong the line astern, and reduced the speed to eighteen knots. The visibility at this time was very indifferent, not more than four miles, and the enemy ships were temporarily lost sight of after 6 P. M. Although the visibility became reduced, it undoubtedly was more favorable to us than to the enemy. At intervals their ships showed up clearly, enabling us to punish them very severely and to establish a definite superiority over them. It was clear that the enemy suffered considerable damage, battle cruisers and battleships alike. The head of their line was crumpled up, leaving their battleships as a target for the majority of our battle cruis936 CURRENT HISTORY: A Monthly Magazine of The New York Times ers. Before leaving, the fifth battle' squadron was also engaging battleships.

The report of Rear Admiral Evan-Thomas shows excellent results were obtained. It can safely be said that his magnificent squadron wrought great execution.

GERMANS IN RETREAT

The action between the battle fleets lasted, intermittently, from 6:17 to 8:20 o'clock at ranges between 9,000 and 12,- 000 yards. The Germans constantly turned away and opened the range under the cover of destroyer attacks and smoke screens as the effect of the British fire was felt, and alterations of the course from southeast by east to west in an endeavor to close up brought the British battle fleet, which commenced action in an advantageous position on the Germans' bow, to a quarterly bearing from the German battle line, but placed Vice Admiral Jellicoe between the Germans and their bases. Vice Admiral Jellicoe says:

"During the somewhat brief periods that the ships of the High Sea Fleet were visible through the mist, a heavy and effective fire kept up by the battleships and battle cruisers of the Grand Fleet caused me much satisfaction. The enemy vessels were seen to be constantly hit, some being observed to haul out of the line. At least one sank. The enemy's return fire at this period was not effective and the damage caused to our ships was insignificant." Vice Admiral Beatty's report covering this period says the German ships he was engaging showed signs of punishment. The visibility improved at sunset at 7:17, when he re-engaged, and destroyers at the head of the German line emitted volumes of gray smoke, covering their capital ships as with a pall, under cover of which they turned away and disappeared. At 7:45 the light cruiser squadrons, sweeping westward, located two German battleships and cruisers. At 8:20 Vice Admiral Beatty heavily engaged them at 10,000 yards. The leading ship, being repeatedly hit by the Lion , turned away in flames with a heavy list. The Princess Royal set fire to a three funneled battleship. The New Zealand and Indomitable reported that the ship they engaged left the line heeling over and afire. At 8:40- the battle cruisers felt a heavy shock as if struck by a mine or torpedo. This was assumed to be a vessel blowing up.

Vice Admiral Beatty reported that he did not consider it desirable or proper to engage the German battle fleet during the dark hours, as the strategical position made it appear certain he could locate them at daylight under most favorable circumstances.

TORPEDO BOAT ATTACK

Vice Admiral Jellicoe reports that, as anticipated, the Germans appeared to have relied much upon torpedo attacks, which were favored by low visibility and by the fact that the British were in the position of a following or chasing fleet. Of the large number of torpedoes apparently fired only one took effect, and this was upon the Marlborough, which was able to continue in action. The efforts of the Germans to keep out of effective gun range were aided, he says, by weather ideal for that purpose. The Germans made two separate destroyer attacks. The first battle squadron at 11,000 yards administered severe punishment to battleships, battle cruisers, and light cruisers. The fire of the Marlborough was particularly effective and rapid. She commenced by firing seven salvos at a ship of the Kaiser class, and then engaged a cruiser and next a battleship. The Marlborough was hit by a torpedo at 6:54 P. M., and took a considerable list to starboard, but reopened fire at 7:03 at a cruiser. At 7:12 she fired fourteen rapid salvos at a cruiser of the Konig class, hitting her frequently until she left the line.

During the action the range decreased to 5,000 yards. The first battle squadron received more of the enemy's fire than the remainder of the fleet, excepting the fifth squadron. The Colossus was hit, but not seriously. The fourth squadron, led by the flagship Iron Duke, engaged a squadron consisting of the Konig and Kaiser classes with battle cruisers and light cruisers. The British fire was effective, although a mist rendered range taking difficult. The Iron Duke fired on a battleship of the Konig class at 12,000 yards. The hitting commenced at the second salvo, and only ceased when the target turned away. Other ships of the squadron fired principally at German ships as they appeared out of the mist and several of the German vessels were hit.

The second squadron under Admiral Jerram engaged vessels of the Kaiser or Konig classes and also a battle cruiser, which apparently was severely damaged. A squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Heath, with the cruiser Duke of Edinburgh, acted as a connecting link between the battle fleet and the battle cruiser fleet, but did not get into action.

NIGHT OPERATIONS

The German vessels were entirely out of the fight at 9 o'clock, says the report. The threat of destroyer attacks during the rapidly approaching darkness made it necessary to dispose of the fleet with a view to its safety, while providing for a renewal of action at daylight. Vice Admiral Jellicoe manoeuvred the fleet so as to remain between the Germans and their bases, placing flotillas of destroyers where they could protect the fleet and attack the heavy German ships. The British heavy ships were not attacked during the night, but three British destroyer flotillas delivered a series of gallant and successful attacks, causing heavy losses. The fourth flotilla , under Captain Wintour, suffered severe losses, including .the Tipperary. The twelfth flotilla, under Captain Stirling, attacked a squadron of six large vessels of the Kaiser class, taking it by surprise 938 CURRENT HISTORY: A Monthly Magazine of The New York Times and firing many torpedoes. The second, third, and fourth ships in the line were hit and the third blew up. The destroyers were under a heavy fire of German light cruisers. Only the Onslaught received material injuries. The Castor sank a German destroyer at point-blank range. The thirteenth flotilla, under Captain Farie, was stationed astern of the battle fleet. A large vessel crossed in the rear of the flotilla after midnight at high speed. Turning on her searchlights, she fired heavily on the Petard and the Turbulent, and the latter was disabled. The Champion was engaged for a few minutes with four German destroyers, while the Moresby fired a torpedo at a ship of the Deutschland class and felt an explosion.

SEARCHING FOR THE FOE

Concluding his account of the battle, Vice Admiral Jellicoe wrote:

At daylight on the 1st of June the battle fleet, being southward of Horn Reef, turned northward in search of the enemy vessels and for the purpose of collecting our own cruisers and torpedo boat destroyers. The visibility early on the first of June was three to four miles less than on May 31, and the torpedo boat destroyers, being out of visual touch, did not rejoin the fleet until 9 A. M. The British fleet remained in the proximity of the battlefield and near the line of approach to the German ports until 11 A. M., in spite of the disadvantage of long distances from fleet bases and the danger incurred in waters adjacent to the enemy's coasts from submarines and torpedo craft. The enemy, however, made no sign, and I was reluctantly compelled to the conclusion that the High Sea Fleet .had returned into port. Subsequent events proved this assumption to have been correct. Our position must have been known to the enemy, as at 4 A. M. the fleet engaged a Zeppelin about five minutes, during which time she had ample opportunity to note and subsequently report the position and course of the British fleet.

The waters from the latitude of Horn Reef to the scene of action were thoroughly searched and some survivors from the destroyers Ardent, Fortune, and Tipperary were picked up. The Sparrow Hawk, which had been in collision, was no longer seaworthy and was sunk after the crew was taken off. A large amount of wreckage was seen, but no enemy ships, and at 1 :15, it being evident that the German fleet had succeeded in returning to port, our course was shaped for our bases, which were reached without further incident on Friday, June 2. The cruiser squadron was detached to search for the Warrior, which had been abandoned while in tow of the Engadine on the way to the base, owing to bad weather setting in and the vessel becoming unseaworthy. No trace of her was discovered, and subsequent search by the light cruiser squadron having failed to locate her, it was evident she had foundered.

The fleet was fueled, replenished its ammunition, and at 9:30 P. M., on June 2, was reported ready for further action. Two estimates of the total tonnage lost by the Germans in the Jutland battle have been made by British officials. The more conservative one, who included in his list only vessels " seen to sink " and based his estimate on the theory that the battleships sunk were of the oldest dreadnought type, gives the German tonnage lost as 109,220, as compared with a British loss in tonnage of 112,350. He concludes that the Germans lost two battleships of the dreadnought type of 18,- 900 tons each, one of the Deutschland type of 13,200 tons, the battle cruiser Liitzow of 28,000 tons, five cruisers of the Rostock type, making a total of 24,500 tons for this type; six destroyers, aggregating 4,920 tons, and one submarine of 800 tons.

The more liberal estimate places the German loss at 117,220 tons, as follows:

One dreadnought of the Kronprinz type, 25,480 tons; one of the Heligoland type, 22,440 tons; battleship Pommern, 13,000 tons; battle cruiser Liitzow, 28,- 000 tons; five Restocks, aggregating 24,- 500 tons; destroyers aggregating 4,000 tons, and a submarine of 800 tons.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013



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